Treasury in a spot for 'unlawful' expenditure

National Treasury CS Ukur Yatani. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Lawmakers have questioned the National Treasury’s decision to spend money on projects without seeking Parliament’s approval.

A heated debate over the 2021/2022 Supplementary Estimates revealed that the Treasury spent in excess of Sh5 billion without authorisation.

According to a breakdown by Garissa Township MP Aden Duale, Sh4 billion went to the Defence ministry for security operations between September and November last year. A further Sh620 million was allocated to sinking boreholes while Sh362 million was spent on Covid-19 vaccines, both between August and September.

The Constitution requires Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani to seek Parliament’s approval two months prior, or issue a two-week notice if Parliament is on recess.

While the law allows for the waiver of such approval if the expenditure is meant for emergencies, Mr Duale said the funded programmes did not fit in the category.

“The list as submitted by the National Treasury does not meet the threshold of unforeseen and unavoidable expenditure,” Duale said. He argued that the government had not allocated money for genuine emergencies such as the drought situation in Northern Kenya.

But Majority Leader Amos Kimunya defended the projects. “Some may be uncomfortable with helping people who live in informal settlements and would like them to continue living in squalid conditions. President Uhuru Kenyatta made it a priority to uplift them. Because it is a popular project, some want to show it was done unconstitutionally," said Mr Kimunya, adding that Sh1 billion was allocated for a neuropsychiatric hospital for the Kenya Defence Forces to tackle mental health issues.